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Day and Nike just do it
By Steve Bowman
Great Outdoor Games staff

STUTTGART, Ark. — There is a distinct yellow tint in the semi-finals of the Super Retriever Series. The top five retrievers to make it into the top 12 are yellow Labradors.

Scott Greer & Liza
Scott Greer and his yellow lab, Liza, enter the semifinal round of 12 in fourth place.
Leading the way in the yellow invasion is veteran Jerry Day and Nike of College Park, Ga.

Day is the ESPN Great Outdoor Games 2001 gold and 2002 silver medallist. He won those medals with Super Sue, but is running Super Sue's daughter, Nike, in this event.

Day added the punctuation to the day that saw a complete shift in the results from day one. During the opening round, raw talent ruled over experience with Woody a black Labrador, handled by Mike Creasey of Searcy, Ark., taking the lead.

In this round, though, the final 12 handlers' experience proved to be the deciding factor.

Day and Nike set the pace in the semi-finals with 31 points. Other top finishers included: Dana Giovannello and Windy of Cabot, Ark. in second with 33 points, Reece Hudson and Kay Lee of Dover, Ark. in third with 34 points, Scott Greer and Liza of Friendship, Tenn. in fourth with 35 points and Marc Fritzmeier and Emmy of Rochchester, Minn. in fifth with 48 points.

Included in the top 12 is Stacey West, who qualified two retrievers, Rankin and Brandy, in seventh and eighth place, respectively. Super Retriever Series rules, however, allow a handler to carry over only one dog into the semi-final. West will run Rankin and by dropping Brandy, Bill Autry and Cody of Bentley, La. moved into the 12th spot.

Noticeably missing from the semi-final field is Woody, who lead after the first day, but carded a "Did Not Finish" in the second round. He was one of seven dogs of the 25 that failed to complete the course.

"The fact that so many champions failed to complete the test shows you how difficult the Super Retriever Series can be," said Justin Tackett, organizer of the event. "These courses are set up to test every facet of the handler/retriever relationship. The first day was a marking test. Today it was more of a control test to see which retriever/handler teams exhibited the best teamwork."


A "control test with one bad ass mark"

The test billed as "" included two marks and a blind retrieve. The first mark was thrown at 250 yards into tall grass with a second mark falling 100 yards away in the exact spot of the final mark on day one.

"The two marks don't seem like much on the surface," Day said. "But, man, they were killer."

Each dog was directed to the second mark first, and proved to be an easy pick up for the majority of the dogs. But it's location for two days in a row would prove to be a major factor on the blind retrieve.

The two marks don't seem like much on the surface. But, man, they were killer.
Handler Jerry Day, on Friday's challenging course setup.
The first mark — retrieved second — landed on dry ground, but the dogs had to swim 100 yards into a stiff wind to get to land. The lay of the land and the wind continually pushed them right of the target, causing handling problems for almost every dog in the field. To make matters worse, the winger station from day one was left in place, and many of the savvy trial dogs keyed on it, which was further right of the mark. In addition, overcast skies made marking the fall difficult at best.

"For most of the dogs, that first mark virtually turned into a blind retrieve," said Jerry Holden, judge of the series.

Of the seven dogs that did not finish, more than half got hung up on that cast. But the deciding factor came on the blind retrieve. The cast had to make in a straight line along the right bank of a pond. The course took the dogs from land, into water, over land on small point, back into water along the edge of a lazy cove and back to small point of land and into water.

"It's the most impressive blind I've seen," Giovannello said.


Difficult conditions

The course — with the wind blowing left to right — and the suction of the land to the right continually tripped up the dogs and handlers. To make matters worse, the easy mark from day one and day two was 50 yards to the right, providing another reason to pull the dogs off line.

"You just had everything going against you." Day said.

The biggest example of that came with Creasey and Woody. The team had only knocked up 18 points going into the blind, but Creasey could not keep Woody off of the land and in the water.

While the top dogs handled the course, in almost every instance each of the dogs racked up more points in the second round than the opening day.

"The first day's test was about heart and courage," Holden said. "Today it was about control and trust in the handler on the long mark and the blind. Both are very important to a handler/retriever team, but both are very important."

The final 12 advance to a semi-final test that will be held Saturday at Mack's Prairie Wings in Stuttgart. The running of that test will be aired in two separate television shows on ESPN2 on June 21, 2003 at 10:30 a.m. EST.

The top six after Saturday's round will advance to the finals on Sunday.

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